Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tanemaji - Shōryūji

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 15.
Temples: #35-36 (Kiyotakiji, Shōryūji).
Distance: 25.9km (423.7km), time spent: 9:40.
Weather: Overcast, light rain in the afternoon and evening.

Otsu-san left early. Then Kobayashi-san arrives at the temple just after I have woken up, he must have started walking very early in the morning, seems to be a thing. By the time I have had breakfast and cleaned up the room, he has already finished conducting the rituals at the temple and left. I slept well in the tsuyado, a recommended one.

Mishima Jinja in Takaoka, a long line of lanterns leads up to the shrine.

Leaving Tanemaji, my initial thought is that the temple mostly looks like a huge office building, although ornamented, with the hondo, daishido and the other temple buildings more like annexes to the large building. From the temple there is another 10km to Kiyotakiji, the next one on the list. The scenery along the route follows in the same way as yesterday ended until the town of Takaoka.

Kyotakiji temple, with the hondo and daishido almost as the same building, a statue of Yakushi Nyorai in front.

A common occurrence between various trails is that it is finding the way through the towns and cities that is usually the most difficult, as the waymarking through them tend to be poor. Finding the route through Takaoka has the same distinction, I even miss out on the correct turnoff into the town. The English guidebook is here a great asset, as most of the maps are in a 1:30 000 scale, which makes navigating by the guidebook quite easy. Through Takaoka and to the climb up to Kiyotakiji, I use the red line on the pages to guide me forward, having a hot caffe latte and a chocolate in a 7/11 on the way. Also on the way is a shrine and war memorial, probably from the second world war, with statues of a huge bullet or missile, and a depth charge.

The views from the Kiyotakiji temple.

Kiyotakiji (Clean Waterfall Temple), temple #35, is another temple that you have to climb up to and then return back down again on the same path. I am always looking forward to these climbs, however small they are. There are no waterfall at the temple though, as the name implies, that name was given to the temple when Kōbō Daishi visited it and after seven days of austerities brought forth a clear stream of water from the ground. There are no electricity either when I am there, so my hope for a cold soda from the vending machine is fruitless. Another henro also looks in vain at the machine after the climb up.

The shrine inside the Yakushi Nyorai statue, only illuminated by candles.

Given its location, there is a nice view from the temple, the ocean visible at the back of the horizon. Another distinction of this temple is that the hondo and daishido is built together. A really nice this one also. The most fun of the temple is going through the pitch black tunnel underneath the large Yakushi Nyorai statue. You have to feel your way through the tunnel with your hands (letting your faith guide you), going apparently round and up inside it. Suddenly you see some light and then come to a small shrine illuminated by candles. Like always, I want to visit the okunoin of the temple, Akai, since it is nearby. However, asking for the way, I get a strict response that it is strictly forbidden to see it. If I had not asked, I would have seen it, but now I choose to honour that restriction.

Someone has had some fun with this statue found on the way up to the pass over towards Usa.

Bamboo forest texture.

I go down another way, having already seen the path up to the temple. Taking the Shikoku-no-michi route down, which is longer, but also nice. Down again, looking out over the fields before the climb up to Kiyotakiji, I cannot help getting a funny image into my mind. All I can think of is the old computer game called Lemmings. Now why did this come to my mind? Seeing one henro after another coming into my view at almost a regular interval, bobbing along with their sedgehats, white vests and staffs. Just as one disappear, another appear. The mind works in mysterious ways sometimes. I try to find the henro hut Tenjin, but are unable to.

The path over the mountain to Usa.

After following the red dotted line through the guidebook and Takaoka once more, the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage again sets it course towards the ocean. The path there goes over the mountain on a trail towards Usa (yes, it is a little bit fun to read that there is only 2km to USA). I eat lunch at the rest hut and tiny park before the path takes to the hills, another convenience store lunch of spaghetti with ham and cheese. Walking over the mountain is nice, I take a short detour up to a nice lookout point from the top of the pass, where I get a good look out over the remaining part of my walk.

View from the top above the highest pass on the trail over to Usa and Yokonami Sanri. The big building of Kokumin-shukusha Tosa visible in the centre of the picture.

Upon entering Usa, a van stops by me and I am handed a tiny paper envelope containing a 500-yen coin, osettai. Great is the joy when I get to the Lawson Station and see some familiar faces outside of it, Johan and Kaja. So long a time has gone that I was sure not to meet them again. We talk for a while, recounting shortly our adventures so far. They are going to Minshuku Nazuna and will take the inland route alongside the Uranouchi Bay. My heading is towards the sea, but it was so great to see them again.

A tanuki statue in a garden near the Ijiri Daishidō shrine.

Looking out over the Usa Bay.

In Usa there is a hut that can be used to spend the night, I take the short walk off the route to check it out, though I will not stay there. The hut is very basic without a door. Otsu-san is there, sleeping, as I had expected him to be. Returning, I cross over the Usa-ōhashi bridge for the last and final walk across the sea towards Shōryūji, taking just a short detour to visit the Ijiri Daishidō.

Fudō Myōō statue at Shōryūji, these are beings that remains stalwart and unmovable (fudō) and is able to block the various tricks of evil.

For some reason I had believed temple #36, Shōryūji (Green Dragon Temple), also to be located on the top of a hill. It is not so, even though I have to climb up a set of stairs to get to the hondo and daishido, as the sky slowly starts to rain, making the stay at the temple an atmospheric one. It has two pagodas. There is another Chuck Norris fact about this temple, apparently Kūkai threw a five-pronged ritual object called vajra all the way from China and it landed here in a pine tree near the temple. True or not, it is a wonderful temple.

The pagoda at Shōryūji.

Near my destination of the day lies Fudōdō, the okunoin of the temple. It is a really cool place and I love it. Several of the wonderful shrine gateways, which is called torii, leads the way up to the shrine. The surface I walk on is colored rusty red.

Fudōdō, the inner sanctuary of Shōryūji.

The place I am staying the night is called Kokumin-shukusha Tosa and is a wonderful place. They even got their own house pig outside. Though the building itself is far from nice looking, it is the location and features of the place that is great. They have a private onsen, which is overlooking the coast and the Pacific. And it is actually outside, underneath a roof, so I can sit in the hot bath looking out over the coves and coastline while rain gently drops from the sky just outside my reach. Truly great. A more quirky thing is the buildings below the place, an accommodation built in a Greek island style called Villa Santorini.

View from Kokumin-shukusha Tosa.

Kobayashi and Ujeda also stays at the place. We eat dinner together, but are placed on separate tables. A good dinner it is too. The only thing I regret in the evening is that I do not go down for a second dip in the onsen, which would have been superb. I am just too tired and content to sit in my nice room with a few cold beers, relaxing and looking out into the darkness above the ocean. I know tomorrow will be a rainy day, today was also a good day.

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  1. Kukai also threw vajra from China to Mount Koya. Finnish javelin throwers could learn a trick or two from him :D

    1. Maybe walking the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage should be a part of their training then ;)